I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we corresponded last. And what a year! Congratulations on finally securing your permanent security clearance — not having it for so long must have been quite bothersome. I’m sure by next year some of your colleagues will be able to identify precisely what your Office of American Innovation does. And maybe by 2019 the regional anger over the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will not thwart your attempts at Middle East peace.
But hey, I’m not writing about your all-too-public stumbles as a White House staffer. No, I’m writing because it’s time for our annual revisit of your 2016 claim that “Donald Trump is not anti-Semitic and he’s not a racist.” I had a hard time buying your claim back in 2016, and was even more skeptical in 2017. You have said very little on the public record about this. An annual appraisal of this topic is a good idea.
I am afraid, Jared, that the past year has not been kind to your assertion. To be sure, there are some examples of your father-in-law’s administration taking action that combats anti-Semitism. This must be an example of the kind of behavior that you claimed to see from Trump every day as a family relation.
Still, against that one positive data point, there are an awful lot of negative reports that undercut your assertion that Trump is not a racist or an anti-Semite. Consider the following incidents over the past year:
• The president deriding immigrants coming from “s---hole countries” like Haiti and African nations, telling members of Congress that immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS.”
• Trump describing deported immigrants as follows: “These aren’t people. These are animals.”
• The president missing the days when “he read Latino-sounding names on the campaign trail, listing their crimes and hearing the crowd cheer.”
• Trump describing Gary Cohn as a “globalist,“ a term that you cannot pretend is not drenched in anti-Semitism.
Of course, all of these statements rest on Trump’s longer history, which is, you know, pretty racist.
You claimed in your 2016 letter that, “accusations like ‘racist’ and ‘anti-Semite’ are being thrown around with a carelessness that risks rendering these words meaningless.” Do you think the above examples are not being tossed around carelessly? They seem like pretty clear-cut examples of racism and anti-Semitism. It should not surprise you that, despite your insistence that Trump is not a racist, a recent Quinnipiac poll revealed that a plurality of Americans believe he is.
In your letter, you argued that Trump’s improvisational, direct style of communication was a strength despite the occasional misstep:
“If my father in law’s fast-moving team was careless in choosing an image to retweet, well part of the reason it’s so shocking is that it’s the actual candidate communicating with the American public rather than the armies of handlers who poll-test ordinary candidates’ every move.
“Government is built with many layers to avoid making mistakes. The problem with this is that it costs a lot and little gets done. In business, we empower smart people to get jobs done and give them latitude on how to get there. I prefer to move forward and endure some small mistakes to preserving a stale status quo whose sole virtue is that it offends no one.”
On race, however, your father-in-law’s mistakes are not so small. Indeed, given his increased dominance over GOP party politics, it’s telling that in at least five state and national races, the GOP nominee running for office this November is, in the words of Vox’s Jane Coaston, “either a card-carrying Nazi, a Holocaust denier, a proud white supremacist, or all of the above.” Some of these people are running in competitive districts, too.
Oh, and by the way, your argument above also undercuts your claim that Trump is not bigoted. If all of the president’s political moves come from Trump himself, then these racist incidents do not emanate from poor staffing or rogue operatives. They come from the president himself. We know, from how he handled Charlottesville last year, exactly what he thinks about race in America. And his thoughts are pretty damn ugly.
I’m a realist. I know you’re not going to renounce what you said in 2016. If you’re reading this, however, then you know the evidence is pretty damning. The president of the United States, whom you staff, is a bigot. You will deny that fact. Maybe that denial is necessary for you to justify your White House job.
At some point in the future, however, you’re going to realize the degree to which you lied to both the American people and yourself. And when that moment of recognition comes, I can only hope you are treated with more kindness than you and your family have extended to those who disagree with them.
Daniel Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University